Stratolaunch Systems Corporation, the private launch services provider founded by the eccentric billionaire, Paul Allen is reporting shutting down just months after a historic first flight.
Late last week, Reuters cited “four people familiar with the matter” who indicated that the Seattle-based Stratolaunch was closing its doors. According to one of the four, the company is also reportedly exploring the possibility of a sale of the company’s intellectual property and assets.
Despite the early reports, both Stratolaunch and parent company Vulcan Inc have refused to comment on the matter stating simply, “Stratolaunch remains operational”.
In April 2019, Stratolaunch completed the maiden flight of the world’s largest all-composite aircraft. With a wingspan of almost 120 meters (390 feet), the aircraft was designed to carrying a rocket between its two fuselages deploying it at 11,000 meters (35,000 feet) above the Earth. The historic flight was hailed by observers but many also cautioned that with the death of the company’s founder, the company may find itself rudderless and unable to continue.
Allen passed in October 2018, finally succumbing to a long battle with cancer after being diagnosed in 1982. The eccentric co-founder of Microsoft created Stratolaunch as the realisation of a lifelong obsession with spaceflight. At the launch of the company, Allen confessed to having dreamt of becoming an astronaut. However, he continued, poor eyesight would make his dream impossible. Owning a private launch company was the next best thing.
Just months after his death, Stratolaunch revealed plans to scrap the development of the rocket that would be launched from the gargantuan carrier aircraft. Instead, the company would launch the Northrop Grumman Peagusus rocket, a launch vehicle that has itself struggled with technical challenges and attracting customers. In reflection, this seems merely to have been a sign of things to come.